One little tidbit about me: When a misspelling, misplaced modifier or misused pronoun pops up in whatever I’m reading, anyone who happens to be in my vicinity will likely be the recipient of a mini-rant about the inability of supposedly educated people to string words together into a proper sentence. If nobody is within earshot, I’ll snort a “humph” in the direction of my cat.
Now before you start calling me a holier-than-thou sort (some may use the word “bitch”), consider the following two points:
1. I consider myself lucky to have the ability to look at a piece of writing and quickly recognize its grammatical and organizational problems.
This talent has given me a way to earn a living for 20+ years, and I wholeheartedly thank the writing gods who bestowed the gift upon me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
2. I believe those who lack the grammar and spelling gene do NOT belong on the short bus.
Some of the most brilliant individuals I know don’t have a lick of writing ability, and I am infinitely jealous of their capabilities. As I struggle with the simple process of calculating a restaurant tip, amazing people who are unable to recognize a dangling modifier go ahead and carry out fantastic feats such as inventing technologies to instantaneously connect people around the world; establishing nonprofit organizations and developing medical devices that save countless lives; and making millions of dollars for themselves and those around them because of an innate understanding of business, economics and human behavior. Their intellectual prowess, business acumen and overall genius are far more worthwhile to the world than my ability to correctly place a semicolon or deftly reorganize paragraphs.
HOWEVER, just because people have crazy good brain skills does not mean that they get an automatic free pass in the writing arena. If anything, those who find themselves in the spotlight because of their superior abilities need to be more diligent than most about what they put out there in writing for the world to see.
In other words, they need an editor. Here are three reasons why:
- Smart people need to be heard. In today’s increasingly crowded online world, standing out from the masses grows more challenging by the day. Add shorter attention spans and multi-taskers to the mix, and even brilliant folks are finding it difficult to break through the noise and communicate effectively with supporters, colleagues, investors and others who belong to their different communities. Bring in a good editor — one who tweaks words to shine in a sea of mediocrity, one who adapts style to engage different audiences, one who formats writing for a variety of communication channels — and chances increase dramatically that what someone has to say will be heard by those who matter the most.
- Smart people have better ways to use their time. One thing always in short supply for the big thinkers of the world is extra minutes in the day with which to use their brains. An editor makes this possible by taking on the cleanup roll and freeing time for the doers to concentrate on other important projects and initiatives.
- Smart people must protect their reputations. Let’s just get this out in the open: We all judge people based on their written words. Public writing of any sort, whether a blog posting, an article in an industry publication, an email to a company’s employees or a note on the door of a business, all have the power to reflect either positively or poorly on the individuals and organizations whose names are associated with the words. The keen eyes of an editor can serve as a last stand between adulation and condemnation.
So have you figured out what, in my humble opinion, helps the world’s most clever people make it to the top?
If you said “an editor,” you’re partway there. Just as importantly (and more proof of their genius), I’ve found again and again that the most successful people I know recognize the benefits of drawing on the skills of an editor. They recognize that a good editor can serve as a partner behind the scenes, and they recognize that it never hurts to have someone who is able to help avoid mediocre, forgettable and embarrassing prose, and to transform unorganized, unfocused and unreadable writing into professional, polished and effective content that makes an impact.
Way to go, editors (and big brains)!
Some more reading about editing and writing:
- The Importance of Writing Well For Social Media Content by Angela Maiers
- A Fourth of July lesson in the value of editors by James Mathewson
- Let us now praise editors by Gary Kamiya (an oldie but goodie)
- And one of mine from last year: Should You Care if ‘Anal Retentive’ Requires a Hyphen?